Laura Mooney, left and Ava O'Connor, right with Claire Fagan.
TWO promising Tullamor Harriers' athletes have been selected to race at the European U-20 Track and Field Championships later this month.
Cappincur woman Laura Mooney and Emo's Ava O'Connor have made the Irish team that will travel to Tallinn, Estonia for the championships from July 15 to 18.
They have emerged through a remarkably talented juvenile set up at Tullamore Harriers. One of their club colleagues, Mark Milner (Killeigh) will race at the European U-23 Track and Field Championships, which are also in Tallinn and take place a week earlier from July 8 to 11.
Mooney will run in the 5,000m while O'Connor will race the shorter 1,500m. Both athletes have made tremendous progress in the past few years as they have moved up to international standard.
Mooney is on an athletics scholarship at Providence College in Rhode Island – O'Connor is a secondary school student in Scoil Chriost Ri, Portlaoise (Mooney also attended there) and is likely to get an athletics scholarship when she finishes there.
Mooney has made phenomenal progress in the past couple of years in particular as she has transitioned into a top class athlete. In May she ran a new national outdoor U20 record for 5,000m while competing in Charlottesville, Virginia. Laura clocked a superb 16:19.43 to edge past the previous record of 16:19.80 which was set by Sarah Collins in 2013. This outstanding run has been followed by fine performances in 3000m, 5000m and 10000m races over the last two months. Just a fortnight ago Laura won the Irish U20 5000m in Santry, Dublin in a new Championship Best Performance of 16.31.
Ava O'Connor has achieved fantastic consistency in the middle distances in the past few seasons. She has ran 4.26 twice for 1500m. In addition to running fast, O'Connor has also performed well in championship races. Ava has won four All Ireland U20 titles in 800m and 1500m races and in 2019 finished seventh in the 1500m at the European Youth Olympics held in Azerbaijan. Like Laura, Ava has also set herself apart from her peers by setting a Championship Best Performance for 1500m at the 2020 Athletics Ireland U20 Indoor championship when she ran 4.35.81.
There has been a great array of talent in Tullamore Harriers in the past few years, many of them coached by Croghan man Damian Lawlor. A number have got athletics scholarships in the USA while Mark Milner opted to stay at home on one in UCD. There are other outstanding athletes waiting to emerge from the younger age groups as Tullamore Harriers pursue a policy of minding their load in their early years and then trying to get athletes to push on once they hit 15/16 years of age.
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